In light of national diabetes awareness month this November, doctors are urging people with diabetes and their caregivers to be doubly cautious due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Akshay Jain, who operates his own clinic, Fraser River endocrinology in Surrey, spoke to the Optimist recently about the increased risk people with diabetes face in the midst of the pandemic.
Simply put, diabetes is a chronic disease where an imbalance of blood sugar, or glucose, occurs within the body. The uptake of glucose into the body’s cells is regulated by insulin, people with type one diabetes don’t produce any insulin at all and people with type two diabetes produce insulin, but their body’s don’t respond to it. People with type one need constant insulin injections while those with type two diabetes can use medications to help the uptake of glucose to their bloodstream.
Jain explained that excessive amounts of glucose can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys, nerve endings as well as larger blood vessels in the heart and brain. This can lead to kidney damage, loss of eyesight, loss of limbs, heart attacks and strokes.
Jain spoke to residents of Delta and Surrey specifically, saying due to a number of different factors the region is a hotbed of diabetes due to the large number of immigrants from south Asia and southeast Asia.
“We need to realize that people with uncontrolled blood sugars are at a higher risk of developing complications if they were to get infected with COVID-19,” he said, adding that while people with diabetes are not at an increased risk of infection, if they contract the virus the risk of death is much higher.
Jain went on to say how important it is that people living with diabetes keep a close eye on their blood sugar levels to avoid hospitalization and potentially exposing themselves to COVID-19 while there.
One thing that helps people with diabetes though is continuous glucose monitors. Before these monitors the only way people could check their blood sugar was to prick their fingers with a device that would analyze the blood drawn for that point in time. These newer technologies though are able to predict blood sugar dives as far as 20 minutes ahead of time.
Jain said while these are helpful, they are not publicly accessible, which is a serious detriment to those living with the disease.
Jain said if people are interested in getting a continuous glucose monitor they should speak to their doctors.